Chimunthu dominates headlines in Malawi press: Speaker upbeat to emerge winner at DPP convention ‘all things being equal’

Speaker of Parliament, Henry Chimunthu Banda, continues to dominate headlines in the Malawian press after declaring his interest to challenge Peter Mutharika for the position of opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president during the party’s forthcoming national convention.

On Tuesday, Chimunthu was headlined front pages in both dailies of Malawi.

In The Nation newspaper lead article headlined  ‘Chimunthu reacts to DPP south stand’, the paper reports that Chimunthu Banda has advised his competitor, Peter Mutharika, and the party’s regional governor (South) Noel Masangwi not to divide the party on regional basis.

Chimunthu Banda said following last week’s comments by Masangwi and Eastern Region governor Charles Jika that the two regions were going to support Mutharika’s candidacy at the party’s convention, he telephoned the two and advised them not to practise regional politics.

Speaker Chimunthu Banda: Hands- Challenging Peter Mutharika
Speaker Chimunthu Banda: Hands- Challenging Peter Mutharika

“I did not stop there, I also telephoned Professor Mutharika and advised him that such comments by the two are divisive and cannot build the party. Professor Mutharika agreed with me that the remarks were unfortunate. People should not say they will not support me because of the region I come from,” the paper quoted Chimunthu Banda.

The Daily Times on the front page carried a story which said Mutharika is ready to battle it out with Chimunthu, saying he does not see anything extraordinary about the Malawi Speaker’s decision to run against him at the convention.

“I said it at a rally in Thyolo, and I have said it more than once, all positions are open because we are a democratic party. My position has not change,” the paper quoted Peter Mutharika, former foreign affairs minister during his brother late Bingu wa Mutharika regime.

According to the paper, Mutharika refused to be drawn into commenting on his chances over his rival Chimunthu Banda.

He also could not comment on complaints by DPP members, including its lawmakers, over the way convention preparations are being held, mostly shrouded into secrecy – typical the way Bingu wa Mutharika’s death was treated.

Published reports say a faction loyal to the party’s interim leader has made swift changes to stifle his chances at the convention on April 17.

“A few people in Honourable Mutharika’s camp have already issued instructions to party members across the country that only one or two members of the constituency will attend the convention and be allowed to vote when the party’s constitution allows nine delegates from each constituency,” said DPP MP for Kasungu South-East Bokosi Grayson Khamba as quoted by The Nation.

According to article eight of the DPP constitution, the national political conference [convention] shall consist of “Nine duly accredited delegates from each constituency drawn from the main committee, the women’s committee and the youth committee.”

Khamba, a member of the party’s politburo, also revealed that the venue of the convention has been shifted from Lilongwe to Blantyre.

“Only the national governing council [NGC] can decide on the venue and make any changes and as a member of the NGC I don’t remember attending any such meeting that made changes,” said Khamba.

Fredrick Kamwangala, DPP MP for Lilongwe North-West, accused the Mutharika camp of political machinations meant to steal the election.

“Some of us do not care who wins at the convention, but we care about transparency and accountability so that the winner wins through a fair democratic process and our party regains power,” he said.

MP for Mzimba South Paul Shawa warned that if the party does not adhere to the constitution, the elections will be contested or they will go ahead and seek an injunction stopping it altogether.

But Nicholas Dausi, chairman of the party’s convention and party spokesperson, on Sunday dismissed assertions that the party has made changes, saying the NGC meets this week to decide.

Meanwhile, Chimunthu Banda is confident , saying all things being equal, he is going to emerge victorious at the convention.

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